Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly or My Day at Church

I can’t remember the last time I had such a good and a bad experience in Church on the same day.

The Bad – Sacrament Meeting

It was high council Sunday. I don’t know our high councilor well but he seems a really good person. He is gentle and down to earth and I like what he does for a living – he’s a veterinarian. So I was pleased to see that he was speaking today. Only he didn’t really speak, he was assigned a general authority talk and that is basically the talk he gave. He started by saying that while the Stake President doesn’t usually assign topics, in this case he was instructed to talk about Elder Dallin Oaks recent General Conference address about Sacrament Meetings. So I think he was just doing his job.

This was the second time I've heard the talk. The first was during conference. I didn’t like it then and it didn’t get better with repetition. I realize that this statement may be proof positive that I am completely void of the spirit but that is how I feel.

The talk included a number of admonitions about how to behave during sacrament meeting. The points that jumped out at me were:

Deacons should always wear a white when passing the sacrament
Clothing is indication of who a person is
Clothing that the draws attention to the wearer should not be worn
You should bear testimony in a certain way
You shouldn’t read books or text message during sacrament meeting

Here’s my beef

White Shirts -- Why do we insist on a dress code for our young men? Some people don’t like to look like everybody else and institutionalizing a mode of dress pushes non-conformists out the door. Why do we want to have a church were you have to look a certain way? What could your church attire possibly have to do with important eternal principals? Can’t we just let kids wear what they feel comfortable in and not give them a reason to look someplace else to spend their Sundays.

Testimony – Can we please treat people like they are adults? We talk about listening to the spirit all the time. Why not let people decide for themselves what the spirit prompts. I feel like most of the interesting testimonies have been stage managed out the door. Why do we want people to say the same three or four things everybody else says? Why are we afraid to just let people say what they think? We claim the spirit will prompt people but then we institutionally formulate scripts for them to follow.

Books – This is where my selfishness will show. I long for engaging interesting meetings. Ones where people are honest about their struggles and challenges. I want to know what a speaker thinks. I don’t really want to hear a speaker tell me what someone else thinks. I don’t expect them to be polished but I do hope that they will use their own thoughts and words. Is that fabulously unrealistic to want that? One reason people read in church is because much of what is interesting has been institutionalized out of the meetings. More and more people are expected to only say certain things and in a certain way. Church should be a forum for exploring faith and belief rather than a place where honesty and individuality are checked at the door.

The Good – Sunday School

I love my Sunday school class. I attend Gospel Principles. I like the small size (around 10 people) and the informality it allows. People feel free to say what they think and there is a great deal of discussion. I also like it that it includes converts. Converts often have not been correlated to the point that they say all the right things in the right manner. Plus converts made a choice at some point to become Mormon. I like their ability to compare and contrast membership with non-membership.

Today we had a lesson about Heavenly Father. The teacher is a newish member who just got sealed in the temple. We had an engaging discussion about God, evolution, faith, science, time, dinosaurs, chemistry, intelligent design, atheism, agnosticism, and the witness of the spirit. The teacher is a scientist and is very comfortable bouncing ideas around. Some things he had an opinion on and other things he put down to faith. He was just very relaxed and conversational. I particularly found enjoyable a discussion about the space where faith can emerge from agnosticism.

He took the last 10 minutes of the class to tell his conversion story. He had flirted with atheism when young. But later spent a lot of time in the mountains and came to feel that there was a god. Once he found that god was plausible, he began to be open to religion. Over a number of years (with the help of his wife) he explored Mormonism. He thought Mormons were very weird (he still does) but eventually found his faith morphed into belief. It was very moving and you could hear a pin drop as he told his story. I wish all my meetings could be like that.

The Ugly – Priesthood Meeting

Ok - the last part isn’t ugly but I was worried that it might be. Today’s lesson centered on the oft repeated Joseph Smith statement “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” The instructor asked what we thought about that in relation to Church leadership today. Because I was still smoldering a bit from sacrament meeting I raised my hand. I tried not to be too snippy but I wanted to give me two cents worth. I told him that I liked the concept of letting people govern themselves but that we didn’t really practice that in the Church. I cited as an example the talk from sacrament meeting in which we were told point by point how to conduct ourselves in sacrament meeting. I said that Joseph Smith was a leader and not a manager and that we would better off  if we let people decide for themselves how to implement truths. I was worried that I was too strong in my comments but the discussion moved along quickly much to my relief. I think the quorum members chalk my comments up to my quirky personality which is ok with me. I didn’t want to offend anybody, most of all the high councilman who was attending the class, but I do believe rank and file members are entitled to voice their opinions even if they are at odds with the management. 



75 comments:

jupee said...

When I read that post, I keep wondering what would happen if you took that time and energy and channeled it to an institution or project that appreciated the gift you offer. My guess is that your Sunday acts of courage will not change anything for you, your ward, or your church. Another day older and deeper in debt. Your daring outspoken opinions only act to cement what others suspect about you and your "non-white-shirt" children. Why not experiment with other outlets for those observations/feelings? See what happens. Live the vita loca. Or, you could continue to hate those that do.

pb said...

Don't listen to her Sanford. She's speaking for Satan, who has prompted her. Just keep putting your wife's shoulder to the wheel and make sure your children's shirts are white (or is that only for the male children?)

The Faithful Dissident said...

Sanford, glad to see you back! I had missed your posts and was afraid that maybe you had stopped blogging.

I think that Jupee is overlooking something as simple as the title of this post: "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly..."

On most Sundays, it's not unusual for me to be able to come up with both "good" and "bad" things that were said in the 3 hour time block. Luckily, I've had little experience with "ugly." :)

I think that Jupee may be right when she says that your Sunday acts of courage will not change anything for your ward or your church. However, I don't agree that it will do nothing for you.

There is a reason why people like Sanford and I still go to church. Yes, we often lament about the "bad" in the Church (there is plenty and I'm often quick to point it out), but there is also much "good" (plenty of it, in fact). Yes, "good" can be found in many places outside of the Church, but there is a certain something in the Church that makes me want to stay for myself. Not for my ward, not even for the Church as a whole. And as long as I continue to feel that certain something, I'm here to stay.

I think that life in the Church can be a bit like the stock market. Sometimes you have to ride out the depressions and meltdowns (which can last a long time) in order to see your "investment" mature. In other words, you have to have patience and be in it for the long haul. (I learned that the hard way with some stocks I bought years ago, which dropped in value and remained stagnant for years, only to see them go up considerably just after I sold them. :P )

Still, though, I can certainly understand why people don't want to be in the Church for the long haul. I'm free to leave it if I wish and sometimes I've felt very close to doing so with good reason. But so far, I've always been able to see some good in it that makes it worth it for me personally.

"I do believe rank and file members are entitled to voice their opinions even if they are at odds with the management."

I agree completely and am sorry to say that I probably don't do it as often as I should.

Fifthgen said...

I guess I echo what FD said. It is a little unrealistic to expect that every Sunday is going to be full of unrestrained inspiration. It would be wonderful if every meeting were like the Sunday School class you describe. It would be great if every day at work was highly fulfilling and productive. It would be great if every day as a parent was full of love, mutual appreciation and wonder. But, come on. Lots of worthwhile things have a full measure of drudgery. If you never got anything out of your Sunday experience, I might agree with Jupee. But sometimes Church is going to be boring or frustrating or hard to relate to. I do not think that means it is not worthwhile.

What is more, and I mean no disrespect here, but maybe it’s not all about you. Sure, there should be moments that inspire and teach and move you. But sometime you are there to do the work to inspire to teach others. Or to do the mundane work that provides an environment where those experiences can occur. Sometimes we are supposed to change how we are. Sometimes we are there to attempt unity with our brothers and sisters, some of whom might be kind of boring speakers. Sometimes we are just there to recommit ourselves to follow God.

Finally, I agree with a lot of what you said about Dallin Oaks. I do not think anyone will lose their salvation by wearing a striped shirt to Church. I don’t think that people should be told what to say in their testimonies (although the pendulum can swing too far here, too). I think that kind of stuff gets way too much emphasis. I do, however, think that someone who is trying to draw attention to themselves at Sacrament Meeting is kind of missing the point of the whole thing. It seems like Sacrament Meeting, of all places, is a place where we should try to lose ourselves and focus on the Savior. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Elder Oaks teaching that principle. Also, I am not a fan of reading at Church. I think it is kind of disrespectful and, well, self-centered. Plus, it makes me really jealous to see someone reading peacefully while I try to manage my children. And I can think of almost no situation where texting during Sacrament Meeting would be appropriate.

But, Sanford, I make you this pledge. In solidarity with you, I am going to wear a blue shirt to church on Sunday.

Fifthgen said...

This post at Times & Seasons is based upon similar expressions by Elder Oaks. It contains an interesting discussion of unity and diversity.

http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2009/01/key-to-the-science-of-unity/

It strikes me that when we talk about diversity, we often really mean unity (as opposed to uniformity or conformity), which inevitably requires tolerance of and appreciation for the differences of others. Diversity without unity seems like a pretty hollow goal.

Hope this is not too far off the original post.

jupee said...

Seems like you are getting a lot of pointers on how to fit a square peg into a round hole. Definately doable with a little work and effort. Also seems like a lot of conclusions are drawn from a limited experience. Anyone tried looking from the outside in? FD, maybe that feeling you get is available in a purer form and without all the baggage. But, maybe you would agree with Fifthgen that it isn't all about you?

Diana Croshaw said...

All I want to say is, I'm about as "rank and file" as they come and don't regret being that way. However, I have to admit, I often leave church hoping someone felt the Spirit, because I sure didn't! Three young boys and two years of teaching obnoxious 10 year-olds in primary... not too warm fuzzy most weeks!

Thankfully, there are those weeks where the circumstances fall into place and I feel just glorious afterword. Our Christmas program was that way for me last month. Being the choir director, three other families were dealing with my kids, I was up on the stand loving every minute of just listening to the speakers and then leading my choir in some beautiful songs of praise. It's a good thing Sundays like that happen here and there! They do a body good.

Sanford said...

Jupee - I am not sure where my gift of ranting would be more appreciated but I suppose there might be a place. And I'm not sure I am out to change Mormonism in any real way because like you I believe that isn't going to happen. But I am not sure that I cement opinions in my ward as you suggest. I sort of think my fellow members appreciate hearing something a bit off the wall and perhaps in a small way give my comments some consideration. They are a captive audience in classes and have no choice but to listen to member comments. They might disagree but as least they have heard my views. And I do often have people take me aside and say that they appreciate my willingness to give voice to alternative ideas. Even those people who think I am a little of out line I suspect are glad just to witness the spectacle of it all. Meetings can be pretty mundane it nobody mixes it up.

How about you, I know you have taken the substantial step of attending Unitarian meetings - do you feel more appreciated there?

Sanford said...

FD - I like your stock market analogy. My testimony rises and falls but the swings are more like the real stock market over the long range. It might rise ever so gradually for years and then decline for years. Usually there are not wild intraday swings. Perhaps I should look at my testimony the way I view my IRA. I review it quarterly at the most. I think over the long term my testimony is not an outperformer. I am not sure if it is even keeping pace with inflation.

pb said...

Perhaps the mormon vision of conformity / diversity is best embodied in the symbol they have chosen to represent their community, i.e., the beehive. Bees have many virtues. Individuality is not one of them. A bee performs its function in the hive and then it dies. The inner life of the bee is of no importance to the hive, only the extent to which it faithfully executes its function.

jupee said...

Sanford: You ask whether I feel more appreciated at Unitarian meetings than Mormon meetings. The answer is no. 'Preciation is more of a mormon cultural thing than a uu cultural thing. Your question is analgous to asking me whether I feel more appreciated by my mother or someone with no expectations. I definately feel comfortable being me at my UU meetings and I feel uncomfortable being me at Mormon meetings. But, again, I think that Fifthgen might say that being a Mormon is not about "me." I understand that philosophy, but believe it to be absurd, delusional and dangerous. Girl, would Buddha feel appreciated by the Mormons?

jupee said...

PB: Is the queen bee Joseph Smith?

Sanford said...

Jupee,

You suggested initially that I try an institution that might appreciate me yet you later dismiss the notion of being 'preciated at UU and offer that 'preciation is a Mormon thing? Did I misunderstand your first suggestion?

You then say

But, again, I think that Fifthgen might say that being a Mormon is not about "me." I understand that philosophy, but believe it to be absurd, delusional and dangerous.

What's that supposed to mean? Is it hyperbole or are you really that horrified by Fifthgen's pretty straight forward idea? Aren't you swatting a fly with with a bat?

Fifthgen said...

Hmm. It appears that I did not express myself clearly. I did say that participation in a religious community should not be ALL about me. Of course, that does not mean that it should NEVER be about me. I assumed it went without saying that religious practice should provide a net positive to the participant. But I do value the community part of religious community, and that sometimes means that I have to accommodate the thoughts, feelings, personalities and beliefs of others, or the expectations of my community. Sometimes (not always), I consciously subordinate what I want to what the group, or some subset of the group wants. I do this for various reasons, which I need not go into here. Does this seem absurd, delusional or dangerous? Not to me. And I don’t think I would be very happy in a community of people who thought it was.

I just don’t see the fact that we have good days and bad days at church (whatever church) as evidence of anything. I guess if one only had bad days at a particular church, you might conclude that the church in question was not a good fit for that person. But even that would not be evidence that there was anything wrong with one or the other. I mean, the church could be bad, but so could the person, right?

The Faithful Dissident said...

Jupee said: "Anyone tried looking from the outside in?"

Well, anyone tried looking from the inside out?

OK, obviously, I know nothing about you. Perhaps you have been on the "inside" and felt more comfortable on the outside. I don't know. I think, though, that our spirits are just as individually unique as our physical DNA, so what seems good and appealing to one person isn't necessarily so for another.

"Meetings can be pretty mundane it nobody mixes it up."

Very true. And you never know, whatever "wacky" thing you have to say might just be exactly what someone sitting there needs to hear.

Fifthgen said...

Oh, FD, I think it is a pretty well-known fact that Mormons are not as introspective or insightful as non-Mormons or former Mormons.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Fifthgen, if I weren't a Mormon, I guess I would have figured that out myself. :)

Marlo Balmanno said...

I too have gone through these same points over the years. Let’s face it in our church today there are few who really take the time to learn the doctrine and study it from different perspectives. I was just released from the primary and have recently started attending Sunday school and Relief Society. Upon release I was hoping for insightful discussions about the D&C. Unfortunately so far there hasn't been much participation from the class. I usually say whatever I feel which has come back to bite me more than once. I feel for you as do all of us "insiders" who sit shaking our heads during our meetings
One the subject of Testimonies, although I don't like having a set of rules for how to say and present our testimonies I am tired of listening to the Oscar-esque speeches that some members try to pass off as sharing their testimonies. It is very disappointing to see that happen when there are others who want/need to share losing out because of the time taken for non-testimony speeches.
I have no problem with the boys wearing white shirts. I asked my husband who is a YM pres. about it. At first I had a problem with the rule dictating how anyone can express themselves. His answer was, “The boys can wear whatever they want to church but if they expect to be part of a sacred ordinance they have been asked to white so they are not distracting to the congregation.” He has the boys rotate often and if there are too few to pass or bless he has filled in. Once he explained the Sacrament as being a sacred ordinance it didn’t bother me.

jupee said...

Sanford: Good points. I'll take them in order. 1. I used "appreciate" in two different ways. In my first post, I meant to say that other institutions may embrace (i.e., appreciate) your individuality in a way that the LDS, perhaps, do not. In my later post, I meant that UUs do not express gratitude (i.e., appreciation) for my membership. I think that Mormons do that. My experience of UUs is that they have no opinion about whether you should or should not attend and so when you do, they don't express gratitude (i.e., appreciation) for your presence in the way that I felt Mormons do/did. Does that clear it up?

I did/do not consider Fifthgen's earlier post to be a "fly." Had I had something larger than a bat, I would have swung that. Let me say that with Fifthgen's later explanation, I can see the "fly" and do not disagree. But, I do believe that anytime you engage in an activity that makes you personally uncomfortable, it is critically important to examine that "inner voice" and not ignore it by believing you are participating in something that isn't about you. I think this kind of thinking is what makes things like torture and discrimination possible. Does that clear it up?

Fifthgen. I feel you now. Thanks and apologiies for misunderstanding.

FD: I was born into the covenant and raised Mormon. I never believed, never bore my testimony and never remember feeling that the church was true. When I got old enough to go my own way without causing embarrassment to my family or showing outward disrespect towards them, I quietly had my name removed from the church records. I officially "joined" the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation on my husband's 40th birthday -- 9/29/05. My family have been active UU ever since. I have two brother and one sister. All returned missionaries, all married in the temple, all very active and committed. I agree with you that what seems good to one person does not seem good to another person. The UUs believe that. But, I don't think that the Mormon's are okay with that. Unitarian Universalists have a tradition of believing that everyone is saved (thus, the name Universalists). You can only get to the Celestial Kingdom if you are a good Mormon.

Fifthgen: I find you introspective. And, handsome.

FD: I think pain and being different and not meeting parental expectations tend to make one introspective. Whether you are Mormon or not doesn't seem to have a bearing on that from my perspective. Unless, you believe that Mormons are, by virtue of being Mormon, more happy and thus less in need of introspection?

jupee said...

Oops, I did it again. FD: To clarify my use of the word "family." My "family" I was born into is active, committed LDS --all of them. The "family" I created is active UU --all of them.

jupee said...

Wow. It feels like I just can't get enough. I know this is Sanford's blog, but I have a serious question and this seems a good forum. SETUP: Watched King Arthur over the weekend. In it, King Arthur has this realization that the Rome for which he has been fighting and sacrificing everything doesn't exist anywhere but in his mind. QUESTION: Are you worried that the Mormonism on which you have based your lives may not exist anywhere but in your minds? I read a lot of how you think the church should be or is, but just not practiced (did I phrase that correctly?). But, your charcterizations of the church do not comport with my experience of the church --not even close. And I had over 30 years of direct experience. How do you account for the difference between the way you think the church is and the way it is "practiced"?

The Faithful Dissident said...

Jupee, I'm glad that you found what you were looking for in UU -- what you obviously weren't getting via Mormonism. Since you never believed in Mormonism, it seems natural that you would look for something that you could believe in. So I applaud you for that and think that most of us would have done the same had we all felt absolutely nothing towards our faith.

"I agree with you that what seems good to one person does not seem good to another person. The UUs believe that. But, I don't think that the Mormon's are okay with that."

You're right, a lot of Mormons are not okay with that. I am.

"Unitarian Universalists have a tradition of believing that everyone is saved (thus, the name Universalists). You can only get to the Celestial Kingdom if you are a good Mormon."

Doctrinal differences. However, I think it's a little black and white to simply say "you can only get into the Celestial Kingdom if you are a good Mormon." If it were that simple, why would we bother doing temple work? Also, I think that Mormons themselves are bad about oversimplifying it as such. I think that we haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the complexity of this doctrine and so to say that so-and-so is going to this kingdom and that kingdom is treading on dangerous waters. I know that many Mormons will attempt to make such judgments anyways, but I disagree with them.

"I think pain and being different and not meeting parental expectations tend to make one introspective. Whether you are Mormon or not doesn't seem to have a bearing on that from my perspective."

Agreed.

"QUESTION: Are you worried that the Mormonism on which you have based your lives may not exist anywhere but in your minds?"

What person, of ANY faith, has not asked themselves that at one time or another?

The Faithful Dissident said...

Jupee, I have some questions for you. I ask them in all sincerity with all due respect.

I'm reading about UU on Wikipedia and find it interesting that so many UU's consider themselves to Atheist (18%).

What would such people get out of a UU service? Don't they feel like they're wasting their time if there is no God or afterlife?

Also, how do you personally classify your UU'ism? Is it a religion? Philosophy? Spirituality?

Just curious. I find this stuff interesting. :)

jupee said...

No offense taken. I'll start small and you let me know how wide to cast my net. I consider myself an athiest (I get hung up on the "know" part of it, but believe the evidence supports no God more than God --so some would say that definitionally I am agnostic. I also think that if one takes that leap and decides to believe in God one is faced with an even tougher question: Is God fundamentally good or evil?)

I am keenly interested in living an ethical life based in truth and exploration. I consider my UU experience to be one that helps and supports that journey. One that is guided by the 7 UU principals --about the only thing UUs are dogmatic about. (You can find these on the web.)

As a social creature, being in congregation with other people who believe ethics, truth and exploration are critically important helps support and enrich that journey. Our minisiter's opening words always conclude with: "Here we gather to celebrate hope and the infinite possibility of love." That gets me every time. It makes me want to be a better person in the fullest sense.

FD: You still draw a distinction between what Mormons believe and what you believe. I find that curious. I have no doubt that UU as I practice it exists in the world. It is not a creation of mind. So, in response to you question ---I don't wonder that.

The Faithful Dissident said...

"As a social creature, being in congregation with other people who believe ethics, truth and exploration are critically important helps support and enrich that journey."

True, but wouldn't an atheist be more comfortable at a non-spiritual meeting of people who value those same things? Like a humanist meeting, perhaps? Doesn't the non-denominational, yet spiritual element of UUism "get in the way" of someone who is atheist -- or perhaps even anti-theist? Or am I mischaracterizing UUism as "spiritualism?"

"You still draw a distinction between what Mormons believe and what you believe. I find that curious."

Well, I'm generalizing here by making it sound like it's "all those other Mormons" vs. me, so I apologize for that. I think that anyone who thinks that all Mormons believe the same thing just hasn't met enough Mormons yet. Although we all share some basic fundamentals, I think that members of the Church are very much affected by their culture, life experiences, and way of life. And sometimes that translates into how we interpret certain aspects of the Gospel and what we personally believe as individuals. I can think of a few Mormons in my part of the world who would find it difficult to live in the US or especially UT, for that reason -- myself included. On the other hand, there are some that would probably fit in quite nicely in the heart of Mormon UT.

There is more room for personal interpretation, speculation, and belief than some Mormons want to acknowledge, in my opinion.

jupee said...

FD: Whether someone believes in God is irrelevant to me. God believers don't make me uncomfortable or get in my way. (Although I'm not sure the converse is true --which may be in part why you asked the question.) What is relevant is whether a person is committed to living an ethical life, a truthful life, and one in which they attempt to be fully present and explore. My experience is that this can happen whether you are God fearing or God less. I am troubled by people who refuse personal accountability. And sometimes that sounds like, I decided to blah blah blah because it was God's revealed will. (Or, I don't agree with that direction, but follow it becuase it isn't about me.) But, truthfully, I find the same lack of accountability in atheists. It just sounds more like, I blah blah blah because my husband said I have to. I'm not opposed to humanist groups, I just happen to identify with the 7 UU principals and am unaware of a humanist equivalent. Oh, and I experience spirituality without God.

Onto the next topic. What is your definition of Mormon? What are the minimum requirements?

The Faithful Dissident said...

"God believers don't make me uncomfortable or get in my way." (Although I'm not sure the converse is true --which may be in part why you asked the question.)"

I know people who don't believe in God. In fact, if I want to believe the statistics, about 40% of the population here are non-believers. For the most part they don't "make me uncomfortable" or "get in my way." In fact, as an example, I'm into animal welfare (like you, I'm very troubled by the lack of personal accountability in this world and how it affects humans and animals) and it's been my observation that some of my non-believing friends are the ones whom I consider most ethical, compassionate, and the type of person that the world needs more of. Perhaps it has something to do with their belief that this life is all we get, so we better make it good for us and those around us, including animals. Or perhaps it's just coincidence. (I know some believers who are just as admirable.) I don't know.

But it goes both ways. I did a post a while back about my sister-in-law who, from what evidence I can gather is a non-believer, and the way that she treated me once she found out I was a Mormon. You may find it interesting.

"Oh, and I experience spirituality without God."

I hope you're not getting offended by my questions. I don't mean to demean you for not believing in God and that's not my intention. I'm just very curious about a lot of things. One of them would be atheist spirituality. How does that work? Do atheists still believe in a soul or spirit even though they don't believe in a god? Do they believe in an afterlife without any god?

"Onto the next topic. What is your definition of Mormon? What are the minimum requirements?"

I hate giving a definition because it's not really my call. In my personal opinion, I suppose the minimum requirement would be to believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as Joseph Smith testified to have seen them (the Father and the Son), meaning one would believe in the First Vision, as well as the Book of Mormon. After that, I think it can vary greatly. Here is a good example of how different a Mormon can be from most of the Mormons you probably know and still be considered a Mormon. The author of that blog was baptized into the Church, without being required to renounce any of her previous beliefs, because she was able to embrace the "minimum requirements." I know that some Mormons would raise an eyebrow when they read her story, but the point is that it wasn't enough of a problem for her bishop or mission president to deny her baptism. Although I don't share most of her beliefs, I find them to be beautiful and I really admire the way of life she has created for herself and her family due to those beliefs. I think we need more people like her in this world.

jupee said...

Thanks for directing me to your post about Helga. You were right. I found it interesting. I can understand where both of you are coming from. I'm glad you're building a bridge.

One of them would be atheist spirituality. How does that work? Do atheists still believe in a soul or spirit even though they don't believe in a god? Do they believe in an afterlife without any god?


I'm not offended. That last comment was made off-handedly by my husband who was looking over my shoulder as a I typed. He is a writer and "spirituality" is more important to him than it is to me. I would describe him as someone who feels and suffers more than I do. I don't really think about spirituality much.

As far as I am aware, the only requirement for being an atheist is that you don't believe in God. So, I suppose the answers to your questions vary greatly and I have no idea what other athiests think and suspect there is a wide range. I can only answer your questions by telling you what I believe. I suppose it really comes down to definitions of "soul," "spirit" and "afterlife." I do not believe in an afterlife in any sense of the word. I do believe I have a soul and a spirit, but I would define those more in line with the poetic/jazz sense of soul and spirit. Definately earthbound but capable of experiencing the transcendent in both positive and negative ways. I believe that help comes from outside of ourselves --from other people, our friends and our ancestors and prior civilizations, but not from anything unearthly. I believe we are capable of the most amazing acts and the most condemnable. Human nature is complex and inescapable. I believe in the power of hope and infinite possibilities of love. I believe we have no one to blame put ourselves and no one can save us other than ourselves.

After perusing that website briefly, I can tell you that she is definatly not what I would consider Mormon. Many of her beliefs run absolutely contrary to core church doctrine. For example, her belief that women hold the priesthood, I believe, could get her excommunicated. That belief, when believed in an outspoken way, has resulted in excommunication for others.

Fifthgen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fifthgen said...

So, I am returning to the discussion, and hesitate to raise some of these issues which may now be water under the bridge. My job and family keep getting in the way of Three Feet High. Weird. Anyway, here goes:

#1: QUESTION: Are you worried that the Mormonism on which you have based your lives may not exist anywhere but in your minds?

Jupee: I mean this in the kindest possible way, but can you understand how this question comes off as a little condescending to a person of faith? Do you sincerely, wonder whether people of faith, including us poor Mormon schmucks, ever think deeply enough about our beliefs to have pondered this question? To someone who does not know your kind and generous heart, it could appear that you think Mormons are not as smart as you, but are bunch of simpletons, blindly trusting what they are told without really thinking about it.

Of course I have wondered that. As FD said, I think any person of faith has. That question is at the nub of where faith begins. I think it’s a rare person who embraces Mormonism without a significant and personal internal struggle over whether they find it to be “true,” whatever that means to them. Inherent in that struggle, of course, is the idea that it might not be true. And for many, if not most, of those who embrace Mormonism, the questioning can continue for a long time. Faith is a very complex idea and one that, to some extent, each person works out herself. Some people work it out in the context of Mormonism; some don’t. But I don’t think it is safe to assume that someone who arrives at a different conclusion form you didn’t even ask the question.

#2: I have thought a lot about the “all about me” line of this thread. When I suggested that participating in a community is “not all about you,” I was telegraphing, with language I thought was widely recognized, that community requires unselfishness and sacrifice. I was surprised that Jupee took it to mean that we need not take responsibility for our actions, but that is how misunderstandings are born. I may have been unclear or imprecise. I take responsibility for that.

But I think she and I are really talking about two very different. She is talking about taking personal responsibility. I could not agree more. But I am talking about how community, and more importantly, spiritual discipline or discipleship can be hard. Jesus talks about strait gates and narrow paths, he tells us to take his yoke upon us or take up our crosses. All that stuff sounds uncomfortable. I think he expects us to change and be different from how we naturally are - - to get out of our comfort zone. I have to assume that God is not happy with me being me. I think his expectations are higher than that. And those expectations can lead to discomfort.

3# Sanford and FD: If you are willing to share, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on Jupee’s question on Mormonism as you believe it and Mormonism as practiced. I believe that most people in any faith (perhaps even Unitarians) have to deal with this - - who finds an organization that mirrors precisely what they believe? And would you want that anyway?

Sometimes, when I am feeling that spiritual/cognitive dissonance, I try to examine what principles are really involved, and then I try to decide what I think about them and how I can apply them. Take, as a kind of silly example, white shirts. What is the principle being taught? Reverence? Unity? Obedience? How important are those principles? How important is a white shirt to those principles? Are there other ways to apply the principles that are more meaningful? Then I decide how important the white shirt is. I don’t always wear a white shirt, nor do all the men and teenage males in my ward. We just may be spiritual thrill seekers, though.

So how do you two do it?

(Sheesh. How do my comments get so long?)

Kendra B. 512 C. said...

Sanford-

You seem to have opened a can of worms here...

jupee said...

Fithgen is so rock solid responsible. I am totally happy with Fifthgen being Fifthgen. I only wish I could get God to come round. (To steal a Clinton phrase, I don't think there is anything wrong with Fifthgen that cannot be fixed by what is right by Fifthgen.)

Just a few comments.

FAITH: First, with your faith discussion. My bad for not being more clear. I did not intend to question the validity of faith. I, myself, engage in a significant leap of faith. Just a different leap from yours. My leap involves a belief that what I do matters. I believe the evidence points very strongly toward a conclusion that what I do as an individual has very little, if any, impact on anything.

What I meant to ask, but does not appear to have come across, was whether you are troubled by the prospect that your vision of mormonism may be different from actual mormonism. Like how King Arthur's vision of Rome turned out to be different from how Rome actually was.

COMMUNITY: I, like you, value community. And I, like you, believe that to participate in a community requires unselfishness and sacrfice. But I (my guess is like you) also believe that if a community asks its members to engage with the community in a way that is at odds with what that person personally believes is appropriate, the response should be dissent, not compliance based on the will of the collective. How that dissent is manifested depends on the individual. But, I don't think it should be pushed under the rug. And, I think a community that does not tolerate dissent is not a community of individuals. Some communities have uniforms. Others don't. For some people, the issue of uniform determines whether they join the community. I don't think there is a right answer here. It depends on the person and the community's reason for a uniform. If it were up to me, I would wear polar fleece to work. My employer insists on a corporate professional dress code. Because I want the benefits offered by my work community, I wear their uniform without question. I understand the reasons and it is not an issue for me.

Fifthgen said...

Jupee: Man, we are just out of synch! I guess I don't understand the question. What do you mean by "actual mormonism"? I do not know what that is. If you are asking am I worried that my personal beliefs might differ from God's will, sure, I worry about that. If you are asking do I worry that my beliefs differ at all from what I hear stated at church, well, I guess I wonder a little about that, too. See my question to FD and Sanford above. But, this "absolute mormonism" thing has me scratching my head. I do not think "mormonism" whatever you mean by that, defines God, if that is what you are saying.

jupee said...

Fifthgen: I sincerely appreciate your efforts; and, I really, really want to understand this. So, at the risk of boring others and offending you (I really hope I don't and I don't think I will), I've two thoughts.

First, my experience of mormonism through this blog (and Sanford's like-minded non-blogging friends who say things like: "When my child comes home from church and tells me what he learned, I just tell him that although that is what they taught, it is not what I believe.")is very different from my experience of mormonism as a child, teenager, young adult, adult and parent. I know this sounds hokey, but "virtual mormonism" seems like a different religion from "brick and morter mormonism." Sort of like my avatar is different from me. I just wondered if that is your observation? I guess I sort of assumed that you did not view them as two different religions, but I wondered how that disconnect worked for you --if there is a disconnect. I ask because one of the reasons that I left the church(and there were many)was because no one was okay with or interested in my journey unless it affirmed Joseph Smith, the Living Prophet and/or the Book of Mormon. When I was as honest and true and contrite as I knew how to be, I felt sinful, dangerous and marginalized. And I guess I finally had this realization that, given my psychological make-up, it was more important to be true to myself then it was to try to not rock the boat because living the principles of the gospel was "not about me." (This may help explain my reaction to your earlier post.) I tried very hard to do it the other way, but I just couldn't do it. I think the analogy of a gay person trying to be heterosexual is an apt one here. I think it is very difficult for any mormon who knows that I was raised mormon to not wonder what is wrong with me and feel a mix of pity, contempt and fear. This is something I'm learning to live with, but it makes me feel bad (seems like I should be able to come up with a better word choice here, but I can't think of another way to say it). For the first time, I work (and have for a little over a year) in a predominately mormon environment. Because I drink coffee, my collegues and clients often assume I have no idea what mormonism is and so the water cooler talk often involves a lot of explaining about what mormons do on the weekends which involves explaining lds idioms. I've learned that it is often not a good idea to tell them that I know what a "ward," "relief society," and "young women's" are because when they ask how and learn I'm a former mormon, it changes they way they look at me. It's often awkward and uncomfortable. It occurs to me that this might be because they take it personally. Okay, strayed a little there, but I guess my question is: Is there a disconnect between these two for you? How do you make peace with that?

Second, what do you mean that mormonism doesn't define God? I thought that was the whole point --to the extent that our finite minds are capable. It puts you on the path, leads the way and lets you know how to access God's will and power. If mormonism doesn't define God, then do other religions define God?

jupee said...

Sanford: That post was so awesome. You are on fire! Rock the boat, don't rock the boat, baby . . Rock the boat, don't tip the boat over . . . It's just so wierd your analogy because I don't eat at Chuck-a-Rama because there is nothing there I like. So spooky.

Sanford said...

Ok -- there are a lot of eddies in this stream so I am going to restate some questions that have been posed and give my two cents worth.

First to Marlo – in fairness to Elder Oaks, his reasons for mandating white shirts for those participating in the ordinance of the sacrament are largely the same as those your husband expressed. Elder Oaks stresses that it helps boys to learn reverence and to show reverence for the process. While a lot of people might find that reasoning compelling, I find it to be micro management. I think parents and deacons can decide what appropriate attire. I would prefer that an Apostle explain the concept of reverence and help us understand the importance. I don’t think an Apostle is the right person to dole out a dress code for a ward. I do not care much for the generic feel of most Mormon meetings. I would like to see congregations be a little more individualistic. I also believe that implementing a dress code makes it too easy to judge a person by what they wear. It makes it very tempting to judge a person to be unrighteousness if they fail to wear the right uniform.

Fifthgen – Book reading. I admit that reading a book in church can be an essentially selfish act. But again, I am an adult and should be able to decide for myself whether to read or not. I try to be discrete and respectful about it, but I just get too bored and like to keep my mind active. I read church related materials and my church experience is vastly better than if I just sit there in boredom. And I don’t always read, if there is an engaging talk I am all ears. But part of my beef is that boredom has been largely institutionalized into the meetings. And then we are told that if we are bored it is our problem. Well, I will take part of the blame but I want the people who have drummed much of the flavor out of our meetings to take their share of the responsibility for the situation instead of just telling us how to behave so as not to show our lack engagement.

Jupee asks

"QUESTION: Are you worried that the Mormonism on which you have based your lives may not exist anywhere but in your minds?"

I don’t know – a little maybe. I sort see my relationship with the Church like mine with the Chuck-A-Rama (a local buffet for you non-Utahans). There are a lot dishes you can choose from, some and deep fried and some have a lot of white flour or sugar. But some are healthy and are low cal. I take the stuff that works for me and leave the rest. Is this any easy way to eat in the Mormon Church? It has its challenges but I seem to get away with it. However, if you do this openly you will be seen as a bit of a heretic -- but you get used to the label after a while. I think many people practice Church-A-Rama Mormonism in private so as not to rock the boat but I find that to entails its own set of complications.

Fifthgen asks “Sanford and FD: If you are willing to share, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on Jupee’s question on Mormonism as you believe it and Mormonism as practiced. I believe that most people in any faith (perhaps even Unitarians) have to deal with this - - who finds an organization that mirrors precisely what they believe? And would you want that anyway?

I struggle quite a bit with organization questions? What level of perfection is it reasonable to expect in an organization that bills itself as God’s church on earth and how closely do your beliefs need to align with that organization? I do not expect the church to be perfect but it’s can be hard to cut it slack when it stresses so heavily it’s truthfulness and eternal correctness. I think that one very important principle for any organization is adaptability. With Mormonism’s doctrine of ongoing revelation, you might think that change and evolution of thought would be prized. On the contrary, the rhetoric of Mormonism is about the straight and narrow path, or clinging to the iron rod, or the unchanging eternal nature of the gospel. I would be much happier if the church would follow a policy of trying to do what is right as circumstances change and freely admit that is what it going on.

Jupee – about the search for truth. I often lament that many Mormons I know do not search for the truth because they believe that have already found it. I think that is a lazy approach even for those true believers. I believe that Mormonism, as taught and practiced by Joseph Smith, has vista after vista after vista. Mormonism teaches that man may become as God is. I don’t believe that Joseph Smith saw that as a passive journey. Joseph Smith’s example shows me that the truth is an unpredictable, unconventional winding road that is dangerous and head scratchingly strange. I think Modern Mormonism is tied up in a nice little bow and the pursuit of truth is actually discourages whenever that truth bumps up against the unconventional. But it doesn’t need to be that way. I choose Mormonism as the base from which I seek truth. It is what I know and am comfortable with. Will it always be home base? I don’t know. But it is for now and I think that if I have the strength to follow the truth as I find it, it’s ok to do it from here. Others, like you, have decided to set up base camp elsewhere. I am ok with that I wish you success. But I am also ok with where I am. This whole post started when I talked about my experience with the church on typical Sunday. There were things I didn’t like but there was also a killer discussion that made feel from happy and enlightened. For now the trade off of getting some grief in exchange for some joy is a situation I can accept.

Sanford said...

Note - Jupee's rock the boat post should go after my long post. I deleted my post and reposted it after editing since I had unadvertantly outed a commenter by using a real name. Sorry.

jupee said...

Sanford: Just downloaded "Rock the Boat" from itunes and am enjoying it quite a bit. I omitted a crucial lyric from my prior post: Rock on wit cho bad self!

Also, just returned from church and wouldn't you know it. I think my minister bore his testimony of Joseph Smith. I am so not kidding. I think, if I got the implication right, he was also preaching that JS would have supported gay marriage. Now I'm starting to wonder if the Rev. Goldsmith eats at Chuck-A-Rama. Hmmm.

Paige said...

Whooahh. This is the best discussion ever. I don't even have anything to add, except:

Sanford if you took the time to delete your chuck-a-rama post and then re-post it, couldn't you have corrected some of the typos while you were at it? Seriously though, Jupee has totally identified why we need you so much. You keep us all rocking and rolling, not quite capsizing . . . Please please don't go another month without a post.

Jupee, you are so on fire. I just want to be around to feel the heat. As soon as I finish this comment, I am so downloading "Rock the Boat."

Fifthgen, let down your hair man! If even our esteemed president can do the booty bump, surely you can go further than a blue shirt?? What about a striped shirt, or -- really blow their minds -- a hawaiian shirt!!!

FD, I too read your Helga post. Awesome post!

Fifthgen said...

Jupee: For whatever reason, I don't have any big doctrinal issues with the Mormon Church. I like the Mormon conception of God and Jesus Christ. I think it makes sense that God speaks through a prophet. I really believe Joseph Smith was a prophet - - not perfect, not divine, but God’s spokesman. He made mistakes, but accomplished amazing things. I believe he did that with God’s help.

I am on board with the Book of Mormon - - I love what it teaches about Christ and his relationship with us. I think the Mormon ideas about the eternal human soul, without beginning or end, and our infinite potential and worth are pretty great. Mormonism teaches that we have, and can cultivate, a literal and intimate relationship with God. I like that - - and I believe it. I even like the participatory and democratic (small “d,” alas) way the church functions, although it inevitably leads to uneven quality in church meetings and even some boring and uninspired - - yes, uninspired - - leaders.

So for me, much of the rest is kind of secondary. Are there things about the Church the bug me? Oh, yeah. Do I agree with everything I hear? Nope. I have never really have expected to. But to me, those are policy or tactical differences. The core principles and teachings are what do it for me, and I work out the rest. If I were not ok with the core principles and ideas, I might look somewhere else. I don’t have any big issue with people choose that path. It is a bonus if they are respectful of my path.

As for Mormonism defining God, it is kind of like saying an autobiography defines its subject. (I know this is an imperfect metaphor - - we don’t need to point out that autobiographical writers are prone to mistakes and misperceptions, God is not, etc). Mormonism is construct designed (you decide by whom) to help the finite mortal mind understand the infinite. I fully expect, if I ever meet God, He will be far beyond my Mormon expectations.

jupee said...

Thanks. That helps me understand where you are coming from. I hope you don't feel disrespected by me. If so, I apologize as that is not my intent. FD was right when she said that I left because I felt "absolutely nothing towards" Mormonism. If I had felt anything, I probably would have stayed. I don't know how to explain how you and I came to different ending points, but I believe we both have done so with honesty and integrity. Truth is, I don't know very much about your path. But, what I know of you, I like very much.

The Faithful Dissident said...

"I don't know how to explain how you and I came to different ending points, but I believe we both have done so with honesty and integrity."

That's a great quote, Jupee, and I think it sums up my feelings quite well. Perhaps one of the greatest mysteries to me is why some of us can feel so strongly -- some without any doubt whatsoever -- about their religion, whatever it may be, and others just don't. In your case, you and your siblings were probably all raised the same way and had equal opportunity in the Church, but you simply did not feel for it what the rest of your family did. Most Mormons would, I know, put the blame squarely on you. I admit that there was a time when I probably would have done so as well. When we feel something so strongly, we just assume that everyone else should as well and if they don't, well, then they're just not trying hard enough or they just "don't have enough faith." But I've now known too many wonderful people in my life, some of whom could never feel good about Mormonism or even God in general, to believe that all those people who don't believe have somehow just "given less of an effort" than I have. Some people just don't have it within themselves, just like I don't think I have it in me to ever be able to truly be an atheist. Yes, I have my doubts (big ones sometimes), but I'm a believer. It's just who I am.

I wish I knew why some people can believe and some people just can't. I'm sure it will always be a mystery to me. But as long as both sides can acknowledge the "honesty and integrity" that it took for any of us to reach our own personal conclusions, then there's no reason why we can't co-exist in peace and even maybe appreciate each other's points of view. I'd like to see believers acknowledge that not all non-believers have simply consciously rejected God out of pride and spite, but rather sometimes because they just never felt a reason to believe that God exists. And I'd like to see non-believers acknowledge that not all believers are irrational people choosing to use religion as a crutch for their weak intellect.

ostrich said...

when I have a bad sunday i just deduct it from my tithing...and mormons are definitely too small minded to have proper introspection or be insightful or even rock the boat...like JS declaring to the entire world that his organization was the only one that had all the truths (that was pretty conforming) or that silly concept about worlds without end, gods and goddesses, and the concept of no beginning or no end (that's pretty 'safe' and simply thinking void of introspection)

one question: why is it that in the lds church the people who leave it are the first, and loudest, critics, first to take shots, question the methods of the organization and its followers, and generally know more than the rest of those still in the church because they've been there?

an anology: you never see someone drop out of a marathon and then begin questioning the reasons of those who still run...or criticize those who still run and try to convince them to stop running altogether

"For the most part, people are not curious except about themselves."
— John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent, page 213

Diana Croshaw said...

Wow, I loved everything that was going on here until Ostrich spoke up! Geesh!

ostrich said...

Sorry Diana...didn't mean to break up the lively debate with my observation and question ;) If Sanford and others can pose tough questions, what's wrong with mine? It's not an indictment, it's just a question...one I've pondered and don't understand completely. I'd love some other perspectives.

Yes, my initial comment was tongue-in-cheek, but my question was a valid one based on comments I've read on this blog in the past. I get the sense that there are posters who are "in" the church and those who are "out" of the church and there's a respectable friction at times.

I'll stop rocking the boat and ruining the flow of the regulars' posts and go back to just reading. And it it good reading.

jupee said...

Ostrich, my friend --pull your head out of the sand and post, post, post. I don't know who you know that has left the church, but sounds like you may be most aware of the "loud" ones. Makes sense. I am aware of them too. I am also aware of quite a few "loud" Mormons. When I have a down day, they do things like send an email to my work email address that attaches the Proclamation of the Family. If I were intolerant of Mormons, that would sure feel patronizing and like someone felt they knew more than me, dontcha think? But, I don't view it that way. I just think they are trying to help me using the tools that help them. I wonder if you might try some tolerance-think with the "loud" people you know.

And your marathon analogy isn't workin' for me because: 1) people choose to enter marathons, they're not born into them (an absolutely crucial distinction); and 2) lots of former marathoners are outspoken about the ill health effects of marathoning --everything from increased risk of heart attack to failed cartilege.

I think it is very important to be curious about oneself. I think that everything I do involves me and the more I understand myself, the better off I am which translates into positives for the things that/those I engage in/with.

Why do you stereotype former mormons? Is your experience of them monolithic? C'mon now, Ostrich.

jupee said...

For those of you who don't know . . . I am a girl and a mother of two. Sanford thought it may be of interest for you to know that my Dad is a former member of the stake presidency in the stake in which I was raised. This information may help give context to my prior email about receiving the Proclamation of the Family at word.

Sanford said...

ostrich, first off, welcome. I found your first comment decidedly mischievous but I do think that it is perfectly fair for you to ask tough questions.

So here goes. You ask:

why is it that in the lds church the people who leave it are the first, and loudest, critics, first to take shots, question the methods of the organization and its followers, and generally know more than the rest of those still in the church because they've been there?

I know many people who have left but only a few discuss it and only a very few discuss it loudly. I believe that the vast majority leave quietly and are thankful when they don’t have to talk about it. It may seem like those you see are loud but that is because those are the one you generally hear from. The others, being silent, do not stand out and are not particularly memorable.

Now I have a question for you, given the direction this blog entry has taken, why did you ask the question? The people on this blog who have left the church are not particularly loud about leaving. They may share strong opinions on my blog, for which I am grateful because I value dialogue.
But they are my guests and they are generous enough to humor me by joining in. They are are forthright but not particularly militant in real life when it comes to the Church.

Now about me – I don’t consider myself to have left the Church although others sometimes disagree. I can be loud occasionally and I do complain about organization – but I believe that it is my church as much as anybody elses and I am entitled to my opinion as much as any other member. If I held a senior leadership position I would likely think differently and would undoubtedly voice my opinion differently. But I am where I am and I comment given my view from the cheap seats. But I like to think that I am open to hearing other points of view. In the absence of a general authority entering the discussion, I can only guess so much how the Brethren think. Perhaps you have some insight into the challenges of Church organization and leadership. If so, your comments would be appreciated – if you don’t, you’re welcome to speculate with the rest of us.

pb said...

"I wish I knew why some people can believe and some people just can't. I'm sure it will always be a mystery to me. But as long as both sides can acknowledge the "honesty and integrity" that it took for any of us to reach our own personal conclusions, then there's no reason why we can't co-exist in peace and even maybe appreciate each other's points of view."

FD, may I just say that you seem to me to be a rather rare true believer. I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments. I too have concluded (at least at this juncture) that faith is genetic, and some people have the gene and others do not. I can no more be a believer than you can be a non-believer. It's not about abstaining from coffee or going to church or anything else. I could do all of those things if I wanted to, that is, if I believed there was a reason to, that is, if I believed that God had so decreed and that it pleased Him. There have even been times in my life that I sincerely wished that I could believe. But I cannot. I no longer delude myself that it is because I'm smarter or that I've thought more about it or that I've read more or anything else. I just conclude that it is the form in which I was born. It's not difficult to then take the leap to understand that, for true believers, it is also the form in which they were born.

I only wish that the expression of belief by believers could be less officious. And I know this is problematic because a core belief for christians is that they are saved by Christ, which means that non-believers are damned. So . . . out of all kinds of good intentions, christians feel it necessary to save us non-believers from eternal damnation. Well, it just doesn't go over well, but it's so hard for many christians to see that. As a non-believer, I have no interest in converting anyone to my beliefs. (And yes, I do have beliefs.) I'm fine with concluding that my beliefs -- such as they are -- work for me, and they don't have to work for anyone else in the world. The converse is generally not true. Which is why co-existence between believers and non-believers can sometimes be spotty. As I've noted in previous posts (blogger is changing my ID randomly, I don't know why), if mormons and other believers simply confined their beliefs to themselves and their flock, and did not attempt to legislate for the world at large, we'd all be a lot happier.

Oh, and Ostrich, don't stop posting. Reading isn't half as fun as sticking your 2 cents worth in, whether it interrupts the love-fest between Jupee and Fifthgen or not.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a Christian or an atheist, a Mormon or a UU, so I don't really have a horse in this race. But still I find it fascinating.

If I had to pick a side (and I know that's not what we're doing here, but still), I'd have to say that I'm more of Jupee person than a Fifthgen-er. But that's where it gets interesting, because really, I find Fifthgen's argument more compelling and even, dare I say it, noble.

I think the place you worship should be a place that's about more than self, a place where one learns from others how to transcend the meager progress that one has already made in life. I like the idea that one's own wants and desires take second place to what's good for the community you've committed yourself to.

I like the idea that your community can be made up of people who you may or may not agree with, have a lot in common with, or maybe even like -- not a crowd of PLU's ("people like us"). Maybe it shows that you're united by some higher shared principle -- not surrounding yourself with folks who will only mirror back the things you already believe, which doesn't seem like the most fertile ground for challenging assumptions or personal growth.

That sounds more like community to me -- take the good with the bad, be charitable to others, show respect, find the good where you can.

That said, I must confess that sitting in Mormon church makes me want to poke my eyes out. I don't usually find it inspiring or even interesting. And what's this business about white shirts/coffee consumption/number of holes in my ears? Seriously?

To quote Dear Dianna, "Geesh!"

I happily and readily admit that some of you find something rewarding and inspiring at church -- if only occasionally -- and I kind of envy you for that.

But as PB says, you either got it or you don't. And god, if there is one, didn't give me the gene.

For what it's worth.

Fifthgen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fifthgen said...

So we are getting far afield from the original post, and this might take us farther. Ostrich gets a little beat up for saying that former mormons are the Church's loudest critics. Sanford and jupee tell him that the loud former mormons are just the most noticeable, not the most numerous.

pb then tells FD that she is very rare for a true believer. That christian believers officiously tell non-believers they are damned.

I agree that FD is rare - - even unique. But, is it possible that her quiet beliefs and approach are the more common among mormons than it appears to some observers? Is it possible that the loud, officious believers just get the most attention?

PS: Isn't 50 comments like a Three Feet high record or something?

The Faithful Dissident said...

Wow, I had no idea that I was such a rarity. :D

I've often thought that we Mormons cut ourselves way too short. As PB said, "a core belief for christians is that they are saved by Christ, which means that non-believers are damned." That isn't really what we believe as Mormons and yet we seem to do a great job of making people think that that is what we believe. If we truly believe in our own doctrine -- that God is fair and just and that EVERYONE will get a fair shot to hear the Gospel in its purity and entirety (and not just the flawed, human, earthly interpretations of it), whether in this life or in the next -- then what do we have to fear if people like Jupee, PB, or my husband, decide to not join us in baptism and fellowship in the LDS Church? I don't know Jupee or PB personally, but I would venture to guess that they are good, decent people. We don't know why they seem to be lacking the "faith gene," but I believe that if God exists, he will give them their fair shot and won't hold it against them if they honestly never felt his presence in their earthly lives -- especially if they sincerely wished they could believe, like PB said.

Maybe it would be easier for other people -- perhaps even some non-believers -- to "feel the love" if we focused more on the hereafter than on the here and now.

Fifthgen said...

So, I was thinking about the “faith gene” on the way to work. It has interesting implications for Mormonism. As FD points out, Mormons believe that, at some point, everyone will have a full opportunity to accept (or reject) God’s plan and follow Christ.

Let’s assume that there really is some genetic component to faith. If someonme is genetically prevented from believing, or even significantly hindered in their ability to believe, Mormon doctrine would suggest that their full opportunity to make a knowing and voluntary decision would not come in this life. Presumably, it would come in the hereafter, when their genetic condition no longer interferes with their ability to have faith and accept God’s teachings. This raises some interesting ideas.

For example, maybe the “faith gene,” or rather its absence in some people, is a necessary part of the mortal experience. If everyone believed easily, no one’s faith would really be challenged. At least in some things. Maybe the genetic non-believers are here to allow an environment where faith is even possible.

Additionally, a genetic component to faith would make any sort of value judgment about non-believers very problematic. Until we can test for the DNA marker for the “faith gene,” who knows if you are talking to someone who made a voluntary decision not to have faith and follow God, or someone who simply cannot do that. The safest choice for believers would be to treat everyone charitably and without judgment, recognizing that they may not have really had their full opportunity to embrace God yet.

There are other interesting implications, I am sure. But I have a pretty short commute.

The Faithful Dissident said...

This interesting discussion gave birth to a new post for me. I'm interested to hear what others think. :)

jupee said...

Anonymous: I think everyone posting on this blog, including me, wants to belong to the kind of community you describe. In fact, everyone probably thinks they are attempting to both participate in and create that kind of community.

I believe the UUs provide the opportunity for that kind of community for me. Otherwise, I wouldn't be active in and commited to it. I believe I am a better person because of the UUs and have learned a lot about myself, others, community, the world and what is possible. I often disagree with things that go on within the UU community, but I try my best to abide the seven principles, voice my dissent and am valued. I've learned quite a bit about empathy, charity, acceptance, the healing power of love and the power that hope can provide. I get to work on social justice with people who are amazing. I also come into contact with people who inspire me to be a better person and have a better life in ways I did not know were possible.

I wonder whether the goals of the UUs, like carrying out social justice, are just less inspiring to you than say, cultivating a literal and intimate relationship with God? Maybe the God gene is within you? I could go on at length about trying to find common ground about what to serve at a community dinner considering everyone's concerns about animal welfare, the environment, socially responsible production, personal likes and affordability. But my guess is that you would find this less "noble" than working on perfecting an eternal soul that contains the infinite? I mean no offense here, but oftentimes fairytale heros and stories seem
more noble and inspiring than people and anecdotes we know.

So anonymous, where do you find the community you so eloquently describe? Given that you do not identify with any of the communities discussed here, what community do you commit to, sacrifice for and subordinate your individual wants and desires to? What's the higher shared purpose that binds the diverse, charitable group that learns from each other? Does that exist for you? Are you searching for it? Or, do you have other stuff to do? If you haven't found it and aren't actively searching, I guess my questions is: How compelling is that community for you?

Fifthgen: I am caught between awe and disgust. I love the line of thought, but what did I do in the pre-existence to deserve being an automoton in this life? Or, is this one of those things where I was so righteous in the pre-existence that I got a free pass to the CK. I guess I decided to do some charity work on the way there?

Fifthgen said...

jupee: [sigh] It was a mental exercise. Sorry you found it disgusting.

jupee said...

Fifthgen: I want to be clear that I find it and not you disgusting. And I'm prepared to take some crap from PB about it.

pb said...

I don't find YOU or IT disgusting Fifthgen. I'm happy that I have a reason for existence, even if its only to test your faith. I will continue to fulfill that role, to the best of my ability. Moreover, I will continue to sacrifice for the good of this my chosen community, for I too am neither an atheist or a UU or a mormon or even a lawyer, really. I am only a three feet high and rising poster. It is within this noble community that I can both transcend my meager self and exercise charity and toleration, all at the same time.

Now, to further out myself, Jupee has insisted that I confess that I am missing not only the god gene, but also the community gene. I guess I'm a total mutant. So there it is.

I see no benefit to being part of a community. I am human, so I need support. But, to my mind, support is sufficient if it comes from just one other human being, or just one other TFH & R poster (so please don't roast me), or from just one god (speaking metaphorically). I have absolutely no desire to subordinate myself to a group, regardless of how noble that group may be, and I find this notion rather frightening and dangerous, as was Jupee's initial reaction. I have far more fear of the capacity for evil of groups of human beings than I do of individual human beings, whom I tend to think are good, or would be, if uncorrupted by groups.

Fifthgen, I agree with you that many, if not most mormons and christians that i have encountered have a rather gentle, quiet approach. The threat is perhaps more of an abstract one, which merely confirms my fear of groups. It's in the aggregate that believers seek to impose their beliefs. It's really only in the aggregate that they can do so, i.e., have the power to do so. I say this quietly and reverently: I believe that if mormons in the aggregate made up 80% of the population, rather than whatever percent it is (a minority) they would not hesitate to impose their beliefs as mandatory on the 20%. So that's the struggle, really. I sense a danger from believers in the aggregate because I value nothing more than my freedom of consciousness.

FD: you certainly misunderstand me if you take from what I posted that I have not felt the presence of god (again, speaking metaphorically) in this life. I have felt it and suspect I will again. It does not translate into a belief in a male figure in the sky for me, nor does it translate into a desire to attend church or to adopt a particular religious identity. Nor, for that matter, does it translate into a belief in the hereafter. I would much prefer to remain focused on the here and now and on what I know, which is only what I have experienced. It's not a matter of faith or belief.

Kendra B. 512 C. said...

This is turning into a love fest. Can we get a new post? I ahve enjoyed all of your comments. Thanks for the entertainment.

ostrich said...

Sanford: I'll admit to a mischievous approach in my initial post, in part. And given that I don't know anyone personally on this blog/comment section, perhaps I should have slunk a little more carefully into the deep end of the pool instead of shouting "cannonball" and making a splash. Mea culpa...

I respect the opinions expressed, and the forum to do so. I especially appreciate the opinions that are different. That's why I read, and ultimately, why I commented. No offense meant to you or jupee or others; my question wasn't necessarily squared at her, but that's where I hoped to find an answer because she hasn't expressed an outward angst as I've read posts and comments from her in the past.

The reason for my question: I have many people in my life who have left the fold...regurgitated the Kool-aid if you will, both in my immediate family, distant family, close friends, etc...and what I find is a surface patina of strained gaiety when religious conversations occur. Either that or they are fairly obnoxious in their dissent. And I agree, Mormons exhibit the exact same behaviors in mixed company conversations.

The question itself was spurred by the comment about being introspective and insightful as it relates to those in and out of the fold. (I just don't understand how simply being in or out makes you any more or less insightful or introspective.)

Jupee: My analogy about the marathon was figurative, not literal; and depending on one's belief structure, we did choose to enter the race.
Other's believe differently. That aside, my association with Mormons isn't monolithic, or perhaps it is, depending on your intended use of the term (rigid or vast?).

And I'm not trying to stereotype former mormons, or you, or anyone. I'm just asking a question that I don't understand.

Back to original topic...

Sanford, if you stopped being you, wearing that favorite striped shirt of yours...the one you got secondhand but it fits well and you like it (c'mon, I know you have one...I have one too) then what would that accomplish? Would your little community be better? Why stop asking tough questions? Why stop pushing? Push harder.

I recently moved from one predominantly mormon city to another and wondered what changes it would bring in my worship. My previous Sunday world was made up of great exchanges about tough questions; unique testimonies; colored shirts and bow ties; and cowboy boots and bolo ties on the stand. It was awesome.

My new home is different, but luckily the people value my stripped shirts, bow ties, soul patch and apparent devil-may-care attitude about certain things. It's awesome.

The comment about the 80/20 concept of members scares me at times...the way Cormac McCarthy's book The Road scared me...just knowing the capacity of large groups of human can make you shudder.

But ultimately we are individuals (spirits, souls, bodies, minds). And as I alluded to with my quote, we aren't as curious about things that don't have a strong relationship to us, the individual. Just like most people don't want advice, they want corroboration. Unless they truly are secure in who they are as an individual, then advice is okay...and they're curious about others.

I think therein lies the difference between what you want to experience at church and what some others may want. You are good with you, thus, you want more. I don't think as many people as you think are okay with themselves, and that lends to being more into being the same. And I hate to sound stereotypical after being accused of it already, but I think there's a difference in Utah members and their meetings, and non-Utah members and their meetings.

Here's your approach: "Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge."

So keep using it — for everything — if it works for you.

Anonymous said...

Jupee:

In response to your post in response to my post, I have only this to say:

Yeah, what PB said.

PB, we have the same mutant gene sequence.

jupee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jupee said...

Anonymous: Did you or did you not post:

"I like the idea that one's own wants and desires take second place to what's good for the community you've committed yourself to."

I cannot find PB in that. On the contrary, she said:

"I have absolutely no desire to subordinate myself to a group, regardless of how noble that group may be, and I find this notion rather frightening and dangerous."

So, are you sticking by your first post or adopting PB's ---or, something else? Alas, anon. Do you know what you think? Post!

Anonymous said...

I take your point, Jupee. I think you've rightly zeroed in on my muddled and inconsistent thinking. Thank you.

I DO like the idea of community that Fifthgen posed, but I am not doing anything to join said community, nor do I see myself doing anything in the near future. Unlike PB, tho, I don't see community that requires sacrifice as inherently dangerous or frightening. Maybe just too darn much work.

And so, in a move that I think is entirely consistent with my mutantism and inability to commit to a community, I think I will fade once again from this one.

Farewell. It was fun. Sort of.

jupee said...

Ostrich: You are really making me angsty about analogies and your lack of accounatability for them. I like analogies to work and yours still isn't, even figuratively. Let me get this strait. Your marathon analogy works because I chose to be a Mormon just like I would choose to be a marathoner? But what about the fact that I "know" when I have chosen to marathon. I don't "know" that I chose to be born Mormon. This is a crucial distinction. I think people tend to chafe more against choices that the don't "know" they've made. Whether or not they actually made them is a whole other question.

Throw an angst ridden former mormon who remains curious about herself a bone. Please!

jupee said...

This post may have the same effect as a tree falling in an empty forest. It is the 67th comment on a topic far afield from the original entry. But, in it I offer an opening salvo to PB and who knows what carnage may follow. My only hope is that when she leaves me bloody and gasping for air on the battlefield, I will have fought the good fight and died an honorable blogger. Today is a good day to die.

PB has the community gene. Unlike god, community is necessary for human survival. She could not have come to be without a human genetic disposition towards community. In evolutionary terms, a community gene would flourish because it would convey a survival advantage. This may explain why human beings are social animals and rank very high on the animals-who-are-social scale. Not as high as bees, but higher than most other animals.

I think the issue, properly framed, is how large of a community one has the "community gene" for. Some of us are driven toward large groups and are willing to sacrifice more for what may be perceived as a larger return. After all, large groups are powerful --especially if you can control them. Others are driven toward small groups. Not so invested that they give up much of their freedom of individuality, but enough that they reap some benefits.

I suspect that PB is a small community person. This is reflected in many areas of her life. I let her out herself. I suspect that Fifthgen is a large community person. This too, I think I can perceive in several areas of his life. Again, I'll let him out himself.

I think PB misses part of the truth when she says she sees no benefit to community. She sacrifices for this community and I believe she will continue to do so as long as it doesn't get too big and as long as the costs don't outweigh the benefits.

I wonder whether the disposition toward a large or small community comes from whether our ancestors evolved in a small or large community environment?

pb said...

Well, I've been thinking about your post Jupee. I agree that I need community very much, am willing to sacrifice for it, etc. if community is defined as, basically, "dearly beloved." I am also a citizen of this country and am happy (esp. nowadays) to participate in this democracy and exercise my civic responsibilities. I live in a neighborhood and I enjoy the society of my neighbors. I like to engage in discourse on blogs. I guess I do have the community gene. I just don't want to have casseroles brought to me when I'm sick. What does that mean?

CBalmanno said...

When Marlo first asked me about the white shirt thing, I didn't know why she was asking. Then Marlo sent me to your blog, so I'll comment quickly and get out of the way:

I agree with you 100% about the "dress code" at church. There's no hard and fast rule about the white shirts and passing the sacrament. It's a guideline, but not a rule. I've been in meetings where the deacons all wore their scout shirts. I've also been there when no one wore a white shirt. I think it's encouraged for the reasons that have been stated, but I would defend the right of a deacon to perform his priesthood duty wearing whatever color shirt he wanted to.

As to your original question of "What could your church attire possibly have to do with important eternal principals? the only realy answer can be that there is nothing that church attire has to do with eternal principals. I've heard people say that "if you can't follow a simple request like wearing a white shirt, then how are you going to follow the harder commandments?" That's obsurd. To infer that because I want to wear a blue shirt to church means that I somehow wouldn't be able to follow other commandments is insulting. What I can and can't do are different from what I want and don't want to do.

Can’t we just let kids wear what they feel comfortable in and not give them a reason to look someplace else to spend their Sundays. is something I've believed for a long time. As the YM president I was asked why I allowed certain young men to go to church dances wearing jeans and a t-shirt. My reply has always been the same: because I'd prefer them to want to come to a church activity dressed this way then for them to not be welcome because of what they're wearing and have them going off doing what teenagers do. As long as there's nothing vulgar or inappropriate on the clothing, I say welcome the kids and be glad they chose to attend. You never know what the alternatives might be.

Diana Croshaw said...

Okay, I'm not smart enough to fully participate in articulate and thoughtful discussions of this kind. I did want to say, however, that my last comment (you know, the one bashing ostrich) was stupid considering I didn't understand when I posted that he was being sarcastic about mormons being too small minded. Thinking he was serious, I was irritated that with all of the previous comments, someone would have the nerve to say that all mormons are small minded. Like I said, not smart enough! Sorry to sound like even more of an idiot.

Anyway, I like how the discussion turned to community. Before these other comments came to pass, I was recently thinking about the LDS community and how there may or may not be "shades of gray" when it comes to the doctrine of the church, but there is definitely a whole spectrum of gray where committment to the community is concerned. I am one who was given the "god gene" AND the "large community gene." Though it's a LOT of work that often is not fun, I contribute to the community because I find so much value in what I get from it. I used to not understand why others didn't also pull their weight, but I can see now that we all have different levels of committment to the community. I have a sister that left the church because she has ZERO use for the community anymore. When asked, she didn't want to discuss her views on the doctrine, but she was very clear about how happy she was to leave the pressures of active membership.

I can now see her decision and respect it more, even if it's taken me a few months.

jupee said...

That was interesting Ms. D. I wonder why your sister doesn't want to talk about it? I wish my sister would ask me what I think. I've tried to talk about it with her but she has zero interest. It makes me feel like she doesn't like me, but part of me thinks that she is only interested in opinions that are similar to and reinforce hers. (I remember the Mormons teaching about not allowing things "contrary to the spirt" in, so I chalked it up to that.) Do you have any advice for me?

pb said...

I don't want to post because I think the comments should begin and end with Jupee. But I'm afraid that Sanford is failing us again, so I have to say something, and since the topic has turned to sisters, I'll throw this out there: What is our connection with our siblings? Is it eternal? In buddhist thought, we are said to have a karmic connection with our parents, siblings, and others of significance in our lives. I sort of like this idea. That certain people are part of our lives for a reason and we are to be learning a particular lesson that we may not have caught last time round. It's not dissimilar to the concept of eternal progression that fifthgen has talked about, except we don't progress as one identifiable entity, but rather change forms in each incarnation. I don't believe, nor necessarily not believe, this concept. But I like it. I think to myself, from time to time: "I should be kind to that dog, for next life I may be that dog." And in relation to siblings, I sometimes wonder, What should I be learning from this person with whom I necessarily have a close karmic relationship, though they are really bugging me at this particular moment?

jupee said...

I agree that that is an interesting and positive way to view siblings with whom you don't agree. And, not unlike Fithgen's whimsical musings on the back story of the "god" gene. We're all here to learn something from somebody, it seems.

My therapist refers to that concept loosely as living with grace. I'm working on understanding what "grace" means. Making progress in my understanding, but the progress is slow, slow, slow. But still, progress.

Diana Croshaw said...

Jupee- when I finally had the prime opportunity to really talk to my sister about the fact that we all knew they were no longer attending church, she was so relieved to finally be able to talk about the "gorilla in the room" with me. When most of her justifications for leaving were based on the cultural conflicts she was having with the church (she is, afterall, a mother of 2 who chooses to work full-time... we all know how EVIL that is, right?! - for those that don't know me, yes, this is sarcasm), I asked if there were some doctrinal issues as well. She told me she was hesitant to talk about it because "she really doesn't want to offend any of us by contradicting the doctrine." She did honestly admit that she wasn't really sure WHAT she believed, and that it wasn't a big priority for her at this point. That she was in a sense "checking out" of her spirituality for now. I did tell her I'd ask again in a year or so to see if she had figured something out!

I'm sorry you feel like your sister doesn't like you or isn't interested in your beliefs. I'm SURE this is not the case, but likely more an issue of her not knowing what to say. Because you have found another spiritual base, she may not know how to accept this without feeling a bit defensive of her own beliefs. I think it's sometimes hard for some to accept that others find their own version of "truth" when we claim to possess the whole of it.

One thing that has helped me want to understand my sister's belief system is the fact that she remains respectful of our beliefs and she has not pulled away from us as a family otherwise. She'll joke with us (if we bring it up) that it IS nice to wear cute/sexy underwear again and that she enjoys her 10% raise and weekends off. But she doesn't bring it up, we do. Unfortunately, she and I live in different states and don't get many opportunities to get together, but when we do, we really try to connect.

I hope this sheds some light on how we've made this work.

jupee said...

Thanks Diana.